Emergency Preparedness – Who’s Got the Monkey?

By January 10, 2014 Preparedness, Tips


As a facilities managers you may feel overwhelmed. You are faced with unending guidelines and requirements.  Managing these challenge has been equated to monkeys on your back in the iconic article Management Time – Who’s Got the Monkey?  By William Oncken, Jr., and Donald L. Wass.  Let’s see how this perspective applies to effectively managing an emergency preparedness plan.


You are ultimately responsible for the care and feeding of a zoo-full of monkeys!


Energy preparedness is a family of monkeys in this zoo and family members include:

1. the structural integrity of the building

2. the emergency generator

3. alternative sources of essential utilities

4. elevators

5. the water system

6. water

7. ceilings

8. HVAC system

9. communication systems

10.the sewage system

11. fire suppression and alarm systems

12. water rationing


We will walk through an example to see how you can remove this monkey-family from your back by taking 4 simple steps in each category:


  1.  Identify each monkey in the family.


Break down each category into doable pieces.  Our monkey example

falls under the category “the emergency generator” and one doable piece in this category is:


maintaining clean usable diesel fuel ready to use for back up emergency generator power


  1.    Do Your Homework – Find out what has to be done Distill the policy statements, guidelines and best practices into simple, observable, measurable tasks that can be documented.


There are reams of verbiage related to our example, maintaining clean, usable diesel fuel but compliance is maintained through these three simple, observable and measurable steps:


Maintaining clean, usable diesel fuel:


    • Schedule an annual fuel test in all above ground (ABS) and underground storage (UST) tanks.
    • Initiate maintenance practices to ensure a clean, dry fuel supply at all times – fuel polishing, biocide and tank cleaning when necessary
    • Maintain written records reflecting maintenance and operational testing of the EPSS.


3.  Name and Train a Project Manager.


Once structure such as the steps above have been established and documented, name a staff member to mentor and take on responsibility.  The monkey can now be assigned to his pen for care and feeding by the assigned staff based on the observable, measurable steps you have identified.


4. Check in the Pen.


The monkey is now safely off your back! As facilities manager, you will check in, provide accountability and watch your money thrive!


More on this management style can be found in the 1974 game changing article by the late William Oncken, Jr., and Donald L. Wass:   Management Time:  Who’s Got the Monkey? They tell the engaging story of an overburdened manager who has unwittingly taken on all of his subordinates’ problems. If, for example, an employee has a problem and the manager says, “Let me think about that and get back to you,” the monkey has just leaped from the subordinate’s back to the manager’s. This article describes how the manager can delegate effectively to keep most monkeys on the subordinate’s back. It offers suggestions on the care and feeding of monkeys and on how managers can transfer initiative. In his accompanying commentary, Stephen R. Covey discusses both the enduring power of this message and how theories of time management have progressed beyond these ideas. Management thinkers and executives alike now realize that bosses cannot just give a monkey back to their subordinates. Subordinates must first be empowered, and that’s hard and complicated work. It means bosses have to develop their subordinates and establish trust. Perhaps even more important and relevant than it was 25 years ago, Covey says, this article is a powerful wake-up call for managers at risk for carrying too many monkeys.  Read more here Management Time:  Who’s Got the Monkey?

Leave a Reply